Ilya Samsonov, Leafs try to sweep home-and-home with Jets

League: NHL

Posted on: 27 Jan, 2024 at 01:24 AM

Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs can thank goaltender Ilya Samsonov for giving them a chance to complete a two-game sweep when they visit the Winnipeg Jets for a rematch Saturday night.

Samsonov, who has struggled this season, was spectacular in making 32 saves Wednesday in a 1-0 overtime win over the Jets in Toronto.

Auston Matthews scored his league-leading 39th goal of the season late in overtime to assure Samsonov of his second shutout of the season and the 12th of his career.

"We were there," Jets coach Rick Bowness said. "We let the guy with 38 goals get behind us. We were there. We just lost coverage."

The biggest moment came in the second period when the Maple Leafs were on the power play and allowed the Jets to get a two-man breakaway by penalty killers Morgan Barron and Adam Lowry. Samsonov bailed out his teammates with two saves on the play, and the crowd chanted "Sammy."

"I almost cried," Samsonov said. "This is huge. Thank you. Thank you again, all the fans."

Matthews called Samsonov "the best player on the ice for us," and opposing goaltender Laurent Brossoit also gave him his due.

"You've got to tip your cap," Brossoit said. "He played really well. I knew we were in trouble after he made the 2-on-0 save. The crowd got into it. You could tell he was starting to feel it. Got to be happy for him after what he went through."

Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe was incensed by his first power-play unit's lapse and sat Matthews, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander for the start of the next power play, starting the second unit.

"They make a mistake in that spot. It's a chance for me to hold them accountable and get some other guys involved," Keefe said. "But those guys have been excellent for us."

Samsonov will start in goal Saturday. Connor Hellebuyck is expected to start for Winnipeg.

The Jets are dealing with injuries. They played without forwards Mark Scheifele, Gabriel Vilardi and David Gustafsson on Wednesday, each of them sidelined by lower-body injuries.

They also lost defenseman Josh Morrissey (lower-body injury), who left after stopping a shot in the first period in Toronto and did not return.

The Jets' defense responded well.

"I'm almost not impressed because I see it so consistently," Brossoit said. "Especially from the forwards, too, with the amount of back pressure that they give us. The (defense) can be confident and keep a good gap. It's something we see every game."

Morrissey and Vilardi are game-time decisions for Saturday, Bowness said Friday.

The Jets completed a 1-1-1 road trip in Toronto and scored only three goals as the offense continued its recent struggles.

The Jets have excelled recently at killing penalties, allowing one goal in the past 27 short-handed situations.

"It's just getting that extra clear, that extra zone denial, that extra faceoff, whatever it is," Barron said. "I've kind of said it from the start, our process hasn't changed from the start of the year, our systems haven't really changed. We had a lot of success on the kill last year and it's pretty similar personnel, so I was confident it was going to turn around and I'm confident it's going to continue in that direction."

Toronto forward Bobby McMann (undisclosed injury) will go on injured reserve, Keefe said.

--Field Level Media